The ecosystem connecting influencer and influenced is a fragile one, particularly now. A business model built on selling dreams and aspirations when our wildest aspiration is “a pleasant evening”, to quote the name of a friend’s jigsaw of a beer garden, is a tough ask. We need to envy the influencers, but not so much that it becomes unbearable.
This became abundantly clear in January when heavily hashtagged pics of reality TV stars on “essential work trips” to Dubai caused the celebs to leak followers, field angry comments from erstwhile fans and face the fact that hard graft down the content coal mines does not earn you a Thursday clap.
I had my own moment of disillusionment last week when an influencer I like went on one trip too many. He has not left the country, but seeing his Instagram Stories of fancy delicatessens and historical monuments has curdled my affections over these tedious, interminable weeks, with only a dental hygienist appointment to raise my spirits.
My gloom has calcified into irrational disapproval. Looking at him posing recently in a picturesque doorway to pick up a chic cake, my eyes narrowed. “Is that an essential trip?” I found myself hissing, pastry from my own non-essential, if stodgier, bakery trip next to me.
The thing is, this influencer is a dog. Yes, 12 February 2021 is the date on which I became envious of a dog called Lloyd.
You may wonder why I am letting myself be influenced by a dog. I have no satisfactory answer, but the dog – and this is indisputable – has a nicer life than me. Most dogs have nicer lives than humans, free from existential angst (I think, although my own hound has developed an entertaining fear of doorways in lockdown): eat, sleep and lick your giblets.
This one, though, lives in a cool place and every day – even in the Siberian depths of week 879 of lockdown – is a whirl of (entirely legal) adventures and gifts from brands keen for a sprinkle of his canine fairy dust. Here is Lloyd staring at a vegan cake; there he is mulling over stylish houseplants. I know this because I have found myself checking his movements daily, a virtual curtain-twitcher, glaring through the ether.
Apart from the bronzed few posting sponsored sunglasses emojis poolside in the UAE, most of us have become that curtain twitcher somewhere along the line. If you have not felt vaguely censorious about someone else’s fun recently, you are a better person than me.
This time last year, I thought we would, if nothing else, be liberated temporarily from the uneasy thrum of Fomo, but it turns out pandemic life has its own variant of the fear of missing out and it is no less insidious: Fopadib, or the fear other people are doing it better.
Social media is the ideal place to cultivate your Fopadib, scanning acquaintances’ pictures, the commentary in your head sourly disapproving (more Fopace, really: the fear other people are cheating enjoyably). Who is that in the background? How far is that hill from your house? But I know mine is really a twisted expression of self-doubt. Could I – should I – have done things differently? Have I failed to make artisanal lemonade (#beachvibes #yummy) from pandemic lemons?
Probably – and that is hardly the dog’s fault. The dog – well, his owner (pigs may be able to play video games, but a dog isn’t styling a photoshoot) – is attempting valiantly to provide interesting, aesthetically pleasing distraction for angry, couch-bound suet balls such as me in difficult circumstances. I am just bitter that I can’t try that cool-looking Japanese patisserie and that no one has sent me a new bed or liver treats.
I am still following: he is a cute dog and I have noted down several places I want to go after this is over. When the Fopadib gets hard to handle, the truism that we never know what anyone (or any dog) is going through takes me to a better place – yes, even better than the dental hygienist.
If that fails, I can always remind myself that I don’t have to wear a leopard-print onesie for my daily walk.